If you start as a Guardian, you start dead, you are resurrected as the Hope Of All The World, the Evil Bad Guy is defeated in the tutorial, and peace reigns for 20 years. Fortunately, you don’t get to see that bit, and are flung forward in time until the reign stops.

If you start as a Defiant, you start dead because they’ve lost the war. Fortunatly the last thing they managed to do before the Guardians made their final push was to be able to synthesise people being Hope Of All The World and also time travel, so you are flung backwards in time to just after the war starts, co-incidentally just as these Guardian HoAtW are arriving. The HoAtW are called “Ascended”, and almost everyone is pleased to see them.

There are three parts to Rift which are interesting. These are: The Levelling. The Character Progression and The Rifts.

The Great Leveller

And by which I mean “Questing”, mostly. Go click on five of these, kill nine of these, Kill twelve of these and nick their stuff. The KillTenRats stuff is mostly the same as WoW template MMOs generally are. It’s fun and interesting, and the framework (repleate with little venn diagrams on your minimap so you can see the best place to harvest ten wine plants while killing six Azure Defending Bandits Mk2) provides all the mod-cons to make it not effortless, but smooth. It’s neither as varied or well written as recent-level Warcraft stuff, but it’s interesting and fun, and since it’s the main bit of the game, that’s handy.

Five years ago, I was a four stone apology. Today, I am two separate gorillas

Character Progression in Rift is another deviation from the formula. At the start you pick one of four “Callings” – Warrior, Cleric, Rogue or Mage – which provides the basic framework for your character, as well as what kind of armour they can wear (Plate, Chain, Leather or Cloth, respectively), but then you install other people’s souls into yourself, and it gets interesting.

At the very start, you get to pick from nearly all the available souls. For a warrior, that’s Beastmaster, Champion, Riftblade, Paragon, Paladin, Reaver, Warlord, Void Knight. The last one, Vindicator, is a dedicated PvP soul, but all of the rest are available from the start. Over the tutorial, you pick up your first three of these, and you get to use any three souls at the same time (Later on, you can pick up the rest as options). All of them are complete ability trees, from Beastmaster – summon pet plus some shiny stuff, to the Paragon who specialises in parrying and reflecting damage back. At any point you can swap your souls around, respecing as a tank for a battle, swapping in some DOT for an event. It’s an interesting system.

No Longer In Kansas

Last night, I was wandering along, questing though Silverwood, when I saw a life rift somewhere in the sky ahead. Every so often in the world you’ll see something that looks like the result of a black hole, a swirling vortex of reality towering in the sky above you. Eventually, or with assistance, these protorifts will open up, and an elemental incursion will start. The sky will rip open, and from the unearthly light beyond something will arrive and start sending things. This was a Life rift (of the options Water, Fire, Earth, Air, Life or Death)

They had been popping up a lot recently, so I headed towards it to see if there was something I could do. When I got there “Join Public Group” appeared at the top, and I clicked it, and now I was in a raid group, part of a multi-tiered local event. Completing the tasks the game threw at us (Kill little bads, kill medium bads, kill big bad, hurrah! Rift sealed), I brought up my map to see what was going on.

Uh-oh.

The zone-wide announcements started as I was looking at the map, a massive invasion was happening. Protect the wardstones, beat the bosses, close the rifts. There was a lot to do

(The green swirls are rifts, the pluses are enemy footholds, the crossed swords are small armies, the green arrows are where they’re headed)

The dynamic events are interesting. The triggers are secret, but not hard to ballpark. If a lot of people are in an area, and there hasn’t been an event in a little while, something interesting happens. There are generally Rifts opening up here and there above, below or at your level. If you ignore them, they get worse (and turn into footholds, which mean invasions) and eventually cut off quest hubs as your friendly local dodgy merchant with the wine fixation has been killed by some kind of bugblatter beast. Temporarily, of course.

And eventually

So it seems interesting, and has certainly been an entertaining way to eat a bank holiday weekend, but the question is whether it’s worth extending beyond my 7 day trial…